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Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon (Macmillan Science)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Lonesome George: The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon (Macmillan Science).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Dr Henry Nicholls(Author)

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Lonesome George is on the stamps and the banknotes of the Galapagos Islands. He is a 5ft long, 90 kg tortoise aged somewhere between 60 and 200. In 1971 he was discovered on the remote island of Pinta, from which tortoises had supposedly been exterminated by greedy whalers and seal hunters. He was carted off to his current home, the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) on Santa Cruz. He has been there ever since, on the off chance that there is a Pinta female somewhere, or that scientific ingenuity will conjure up a way of reproducing him, and resurrecting his species and the Pinta population. Meanwhile millions of tourists and dozens of baffled scientists have looked on as George shows not a jot of interest in the female company provided.

In The Life and Loves of a Conservation Icon, Henry Nicholls details the efforts of conservationists to preserve the Galapagos' unique biodiversity and illustrates how their experiences and discoveries are echoed worldwide. He explores the controversies raging over which, if any, mates are most genetically appropriate for George and the risks of releasing crossbreed offspring into the wild. His is a story that draws together the islands' geology, evolution and history of human exploitation. It features strong characters, from Charles Darwin to cloning pioneer Ian Wilmut to the beautiful Swiss graduate who spent four months trying to persuade George to have sex. Nicholls' book is about discovery, wildlife, scientific conflict and the environment but will also appeal to the travel market. Some 80,000 tourists visit the Galápagos Islands each year; all drop in on George.

'This is a wonderful tale of an almost mythical beast. Rich in historical detail George's story is one of pathos, despair and hope with some quirky reproductive biology thrown in for good measure. Henry Nicholls has done us all a service, reminding us of the fragility of life in general and of one very special chelonian in particular. Essential reading.' - Tim Birkhead FRS, author of Promiscuity and The Red Canary'When tortoises were common on the Galapagos island of Pinta, sailors ate them. When they became rare, collectors pickled and stuffed the last few 'for science'. Now it seems that only one is left - the huge and lugubrious Lonesome George - there is talk of applying the most heroic high tech, cloning and the rest, to keep his lineage going. It is a cracking tale - and crackingly well told. It is also salutary. Giant tortoises are indeed extraordinary - but not as strange as human beings.' Colin Tudge, author of The Secret Life of Trees'If Darwin were alive today he would be fascinated by Henry Nicholls' splendid account of this solitary survivor from Pinta Island. A must for anyone who cares about extinction or has a soft spot for the remarkable history of a very singular animal.' - Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: A Biography'Not simply the story of a tortoise but the tale of that icon of evolution, the Galápagos archipelago, and of the heroics and (sometimes) seeming futility of the conservation movement. The science is compelling, the tone is light...highly recommended.' - Olivia Judson, author of Dr Titania's Sex Advice to all Creation, writing in Seed Magazine'Is he gay, impotent or just bored? Read this fascinating book for the full story. It skilfully blends historical derring-do with cutting-edge conservation biology.' - NewScientist'A warmly enjoyable book - a pleasure to read.' - www.popularscience.co.uk'Nicholls' lively tale takes the reader on a journey through the Galapagos - and how much there is to loose.' - BBC Focus Magazine'This marvellous look at the conservation of nature, as embodied in one enormous reptile, is highly recommended.' - Booklist'Like the best human-focused biographers, Nicholls uses his unusual subject as a springboard into more universal territory. He aptly portrays Lonesome George as a sort of reptilian Forrest Gump, an unwitting bystander continually thrust to the forefront as society's defining crises play themselves out around him.' - Wired'Told with real affection and humour - a fitting tribute to one of the voiceless victims of human progress.' - The Guardian 'Lonesome George will do for the cause of science and preservation in the Galápagos what Jonathan Weiner's The Beak of the Finch did a decade before - entertain, enlighten and encourage us all to do our part to preserve not just these islands, but Earth itself.' - Michael Shermer author of In Darwin's Shadow, in THES'The literary device of placing a reptilian icon at the centre of a dynamic play about science, conservation and our attitudes to nature results in a highly readable book that has much to say about the ways we flounder around in our attempts to protect things that seem important to us.' - Nature 'Nicholls is a brilliant storyteller and narrative stylist in the finest tradition - an emotional but fact-filled call for action.' - The Skeptic'well-written and fascinating book...the author draws on a wealth of scientific, historical and anecdotal information that has been woven together to give a complete picture of the travails of this Tortoise...Henry Nicholls's passion for his subject and sense of humour are always evident, as is his knowledge of the natural world and the issues associated with animal conservation.' - Paul Chambers, The Times Literary Supplement'Conciencious, comprehensive and balanced. Everyone with an interest in conservation should read this account and consider its implications.' - Trends in Evolution and Ecology 'Well written and fascinating - Nicholls' passion for his subject and sense of humour are always evident.' - Times Literary Supplement 'Manages to package human drama, reproductive biology and a conservation message with humour and exemplary clarity.' - Folha de S.Paulo'Highly readable. I encourage you to read this succinct book and pass it on to your colleagues, even children.' - Professor Jeffrey Powell, Yale, writing in EMBO Reports 'Nicholls' effort is both timely and redoubtable, and demands critical attention now.' - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

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Book details

  • PDF | 256 pages
  • Dr Henry Nicholls(Author)
  • Palgrave Macmillan; 1st Edition edition (20 Mar. 2006)
  • English
  • 7
  • Science & Nature

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Review Text

  • By S. J. Berry on 4 June 2006

    Lonesome George is a giant tortoise. Not just any giant tortoise but possibly the last of his kind. He was discovered in 1971 on one of the Galapagos Islands, Pinta, where tortoises had been thought to be extinct. This is his story.Henry Nicholls' account of the George and the plight of giant tortoises in the Galapagos is rich in detail but at the same time light-hearted and compelling. The book not only chronicles George's capture, the efforts to find him a mate and the difficulty of obtaining sperm samples from a reluctant tortoise but also includes a fascinating introduction to the many issues that surround the science of conservation. It also provides insight into how scientists try to solve puzzles such as how tortoises got to the Galapagos islands in the first place and how to assess the potential risks of releasing cross-breed offspring into the wild.The way that the author can put forward many different theories without disrupting the flow is impressive. As a reader you will gladly follow a diversion to a discussion about a different species or how specimens are catalogued in the Natural History Museum and as such this book is much more than just a story about a tortoise. It manages to weave many major concepts of biology into the tale without feeling like a textbook: from Darwin, to DNA analysis, to cloning.George is not just a tortoise but also a conservation icon and this message is loud and clear throughout the book. He is an ambassador to remind us to think about what we are doing to the world, and does a very good job.

  • By J. P. Duffy on 11 June 2006

    I bought this after being recommeded it by a friend who'd been to the Galapagos and seen the subject of this book with his own eyes.It's a story which will interest anyone interested in conservation, the animal kingdom, our species' increasingly complex relationship with animals (and very importantly the 'idea' of animals). Oh, and of course tortoises.If you've ever enjoyed the essays of Stephen J Gould, the technique of taking a small detail and using it to expound a far bigger story with anecdotes and diversions along the way, this is for you.Nicholls takes us on a steady journey, never losing sight of his protagonist, but not shying from illuminating some of the more obscure (even obscene) corners of naturalism and conservation. all one can say is that there are some VERY passionate people out there protecting Earth's species!Never overly worthy, but thought-provoking, 'Lonesome George' leaves a slightly wistful, sad feeling of impending loss. Nicholls never resorts to easy solutions or black and white arguments about the future of this particular area of conservation.The style is supremely readable, and the all important science never over complicated, but equally never patronising.I had stopped reading books like this just when 'popular science' became ubiquitous. Works like this restore my faith in the genre, and I shall be looking for this author again.One suggestion: Make a TV series!

  • By M. Fowlie on 16 May 2006

    Lonesome George is a somewhat sad figure, spending his days in a research station, the last of his kind left on earth. Henry Nicholls tells us his story and his rise to 'poster boy' for the conservation movement. Written in such a way as to draw you in to the history behind the current events, Nicholls uses George to address the more general problems that conservationists face all over the planet. Never judgemental and never preaching, Nicholls tells us how it is, the problems we face and the possibilities available for the continuation of animals such as Lonesome George. Written in a highly readable style and often amusing, I found this book extremly informative and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an interest in history, conservation or just those that like a jolly good read.

  • By Dr. K. Sanderson on 4 May 2006

    Ecology and wildlife preservation have an aura of worthiness about them. Good people doing battle to save the planet and its inhabitants, both human and non-human, plant and animal. But often other battles are being fought.Take the sea-cucumber fishermen of the Galapagos islands. The fishermen's attitude to their environment - that the planet provides a source of support to be exploited - is entirely different to that of a conservationist. So when laws to restrict sea cucumber fishing hit the fishermen, they hit back at the conservationists - the foreigners.Their main target was Lonesome George, possibly the last surviving giant tortoise from Pinta, a remote island in the Galapagos archipelago. The threat from irate fishermen is just one facet of George's eventful story, as told by Henry Nicholls.Nicholls tells a complex ecological shaggy-dog story. And like all stories in that genre, this one leaves you feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Not by the storytelling, but by the plight of George. The future for the Pinta tortoise family is far from safe.Nicholls' recurring theme is Lonesome George as a conservation icon, and as the story of this remarkable beast's life pans out, the impact of humans on some of the world's most endangered species becomes a horrible recurring theme.Perhaps in an attempt to ease the sense of guilt, Nicholls wanders in and out of historical narrative. The book brings the reader face to face with Darwin when he was tramping the Galapagos in the mid-19th century, and dryly tells of one explorer who investigated whether tortoises could swim by consistently lobbing one over the side of his boat.The titillating tale of a female Swiss student trying to get a sperm sample from George, recounted with more than a hint of a raised eyebrow, is just one person's story out of many.Eased in between all these themes comes science for conservation. Cloning, DNA analysis, the consequences of inbreeding, and oceanography are all explained effortlessly.The survival of Pinta tortoises looks unlikely. By telling his story, and that of many other animals, Nicholls spells out that icons like Lonesome George are only thrust into the spotlight as a consequence of a number of ill informed human interventions. The story leaves an urgent hope that scientific advances and political policies can somehow help reverse some of the mistakes made in the past. Whether that happens in time for George to reproduce is anyone's guess.


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